Rich Mnisi on his latest collection and what informs his design process

We talk to fresh-faced South African fashion designer, Rich Mnisi about his bold new menswear pieces.

Since breaking out onto Africa’s fashion scene in 2014, young South African designer Rich Mnisi has earned the title of Africa Fashion International’s Young Designer of the Year and has turned heads at fashion events with his radical menswear designs. Each season, Mnisi reveals the depths of his talent in finely tuned but audacious collections that defy traditional distinctions of men’s fashion. His Autumn/Winter 2016 capsule, featured here, is no exception.

When you start thinking about a new collection, where do you begin – with a theme, fabric, colour scheme?

Sometimes it's a colour scheme and sometimes it's a specific silhouette, which then prompts a theme or cultural reference of sorts. Sometimes it's the other way around, a cultural reference calls out the colours, silhouette and fabric. It's not a set-in-stone process where it stays the same season after season. For our A/W 16 collection, it started with the accessories I wanted to make for the show.

What is the concept behind your latest collection and has this materialised in the design of the pieces?

The concept was a play on the Zulu warrior and what he adorns himself with, the details of his garments, weapons and habitat. A play of soft and hard in reference to gender, contrasts, textures and tone. I think, in a way, it also played on the layers of a modern man and what he has become in the eyes of society – he's not as restricted.

How would you describe your style of design in a few words?

I use imagination and visual stimulation as the beginning and end of the creative process.

Are your collections in some way an extension of your own identity and heritage?

Yes, there are elements of my identity within my work because it’s something I cannot escape, but not necessarily plastered throughout every piece of work I create. However, I would say that what I absorb today plays an even bigger role in the final product of my work. From music, movies, art to social structures, those are the elements I look to.

Do you design your collections with a specific audience or wearer in mind?

Yes, they have a very specific mindset. I create with the knowledge that people are aware of what the brand produces and that allows me to have the freedom to work flexibly. I do, however, have a level of understanding about what type of customer consumes my work and what their expectations are.

Watch the Talk with Rich Mnisi